Mason, Lowell

Composer

b Medfield, Massachusetts, USA, 1792, d Orange, New Jersey, USA 1872. Taught as a child by the local schoolmaster, the bandmaster and a neighbouring violinist among others, he also attended a singing sch and learned to play several instruments; at 16 he was leading his village choir and conducting such schools himself. From 1812 he lived and worked in Savannah, Georgia, employed at a dry goods store, then at the bank from 1817 while studying harmony and composition, and playing the organ at the First Independent Presbyterian Ch, where from 1815 to 1827 he was Sunday Sch Superintendent. From 1818 he supported the Savannah Missionary Soc, and in 1826 he opened N America’s first-ever Sunday Sch for black children. Here too he compiled his first tune-book, which was to enjoy 22 edns, and signalled ‘an epochal shift in American hymnody’. In 1827 (aged 35) he moved to Boston, where he was President of the Handel and Haydn Soc, publishing a collection of hymns set to music written by these composers, and for 14 years was choir director of Bowdoin Street Ch. Two years later he published The Juvenile Psalmist: the Child’s Introduction to Sacred Music, which was the first Sunday School collection to be printed with the music. In 1832–33 established the Boston Academy of Music. Ever an innovator and beginning in what was now his home city, he pioneered musical education for the next 25 years, establishing music in the regular school curriculum for the first time—an innovation eventually adopted nationwide—and believing that church music was for the congregation, not just the choir. In 1837 and again 1851–52 he travelled in Europe, but from 1854 he made New York his headquarters. Alone and with others he published some 80 books of music, among them the hugely successful Carmina Sacra (1841) and The Hallelujah (1859); he composed over 1100 hymn tunes and nearly 500 arrangements. For such lasting achievements, and in spite of changing musical tastes, Mason ‘holds a special place in the history of church music and of music education in the United States’—Donald P Hustad. Like his musical collaborator Thos Hastings (1782–1872), Mason was highly critical (in his Preface to the National Psalmist, 1848) of many immediate predecessors, and condemned the use of tunes ‘connected with profane associations’ set to sacred texts. 5 of his own tunes and 3 arrangements are in The Worshiping Church (1990); a total of 7 in Worship and Rejoice, 2001. 11 tunes featured in the 1927 Companion Tune Book. LM’s son William and grandson Daniel Gregory also became musicians well-known in the USA; see the full notes in Grove. Nos.282=966, 300*, 363, 608.

Tunes and arrangements by Mason, Lowell

Tune Name
Antioch (extended)
Boston
Cleveland